Muffins are usually studded with berries, speckled with chocolate or laced with generous amounts of spices. They are rarely left plain because, well, plain muffins can be pretty boring. These muffins look plain and don’t have anything like berries or coconut or chocolate mixed into the batter, but when you take a bite you’ll discover that they are far from a plain muffin. These Brown Butter Brown Sugar Muffins pack an unexpected burst of flavor from both brown sugar and browned butter.
Brown sugar is often included in muffin recipes, but the caramel and molasses notes of the sugar are rarely allow to take the spotlight in favor of other ingredients in the muffin. Here, brown sugar is the main flavoring agent and, while the muffins aren’t overly sweet, you can taste the sweetness and complexity of the sugar. Dark brown sugar will give them a more distinct molasses flavor, while light or golden brown sugar will make a milder muffin. I took a few minutes to brown the butter before adding it to this recipe, and that adds a nutty, toasty flavor to the muffins that boosts the brown sugar flavor even more. I also used buttermilk in the recipe, for a buttery note and yet another layer of flavor.
The finished muffins are tender and fluffy, with a soft, moist crumb. They’re great when served plain and they’re even better when they’re split and smeared with butter. The batter is thick and will fill up standard muffin cups just about all the way to the top. This allows the muffins to get a good rise and have nicely domed tops, so don’t worry about overfilling when dividing the batter. The muffins keep well for a couple of days when stored in an airtight container. These may look plain at first glance – but they definitely don’t taste plain!
Brown Butter Brown Sugar Muffins
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
In a small sauce pan, or a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, brown the butter, cooking it over low heat for 4-6 minutes until the butter turns a golden brown color and smells nutty (microwave directions here). Allow to cool for 4-5 minutes before using.
In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar and eggs until smooth. Whisk in browned butter and vanilla extract. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk. Stir in remaining flour mixture, mixing just until the batter comes together and no streaks of dry ingredients remain.
Divide evenly into prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 15-17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly pressed.
Turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool.